Any time one considers making a move that is seen to be “outside of the norm” it is always good to critically examine the why behind it. We often make mistakes in life because we didn’t think something through as well as we should have. Making the decision to attend a gap year experience is one decision I can with high confidence invite you to deeply consider.
A strongly intentioned gap year experience will likely move a young person ahead of their peers in key areas such as maturity, leadership, life skill development, and understanding of a chosen vocation.
There is mounting evidence that a well-structured gap year experience has many potential benefits. Forbes recently ran a great article on how an adolescent’s brain may actually benefit from taking a gap year (See Why Your Brain Would Love It If You Took A Gap Year) A strongly intentioned gap year experience will likely move a young person ahead of their peers in key areas such as maturity, leadership, life skill development, and understanding of a chosen vocation.
Here are three key offerings a great gap year plan will offer:
- 1. A Season of Maturity: As the Forbes article and multiple studies relate the brains of students in the traditional range of gap year participation are still developing in the critical area of impulse control and decision-making. Taking a seventeen or eighteen-year-old student and dropping them off at college or university is dropping them into an environment where they are immersed and surrounded by peers who are also still developing their abilities to make good decisions. At Impact 360 our gap year experience intentionally surrounds a student in a smaller environment complemented with a high staff-to-student ratio. Impact staff intentionally works daily with students through the use of intentional relationships and programming to instill in them an anchor of biblical values through which to frame their decision-making. As students leave Impact 360 and head to college they are better equipped for the environments and opportunities ahead of them and armed with a worldview to help them make wise decisions.
Dropping a seventeen or eighteen-year-old student off at college is dropping them into an environment where they are thoroughly immersed in other peers who are also developing their abilities to make good decisions.
- 2. A Season of Maturity: A Season of Community: I believe this is something Impact 360 Fellows can offer that is difficult, if not impossible, to find elsewhere. Where else does one learn how to effectively seek, build, and live in biblical community? Belonging to a like-minded and values-sharing peer group is vital to one’s spiritual growth and accountability. While one cannot biblically live in a bubble it is vital that Christians have a fellowship with each other that practices grace and models aspects of Christ to each other. Impact 360 Institute intentionally mentors students in the important characteristics of leaning into and leaning onto each other, working through relational challenges, and seeking grace when appropriate. To recognize one’s need for biblical community as well as possess the skills to seek out and create such groups is a powerful takeaway from the Impact 360 Fellows experience.
- 3. A Season of Discernment: According to multiple sources, a four-year degree is a myth and most students are taking over six years to complete their degree plan. One of the main reasons why completing a degree can take longer is the student changing their major. Once the general requirements are out of the way, then changes in a major are going to cost a student a minimum of a couple of semesters. But how can a student be expected to make an informed major decision while still back in their general requirements? Doesn’t a student need to study or get experience in a field before they know they want to do it as a career? Impact 360 Fellows spend time in trusted assessment tests to help them determine what types of work they have predispositions toward and what will be fulfilling for them. This helps students to make more informed choices for majors and helps curb the number of changes they make providing more direct and timely completion of their degree plan. The academic credits gained through their classroom studies at Impact also ensure students continue to move toward their college degrees while being a part of our gap year experience.
It’s not a year off. The average Impact alum finishes college before their peers who went straight on to college.
A gap year experience can be a critical part of a successful college journey for any student. Impact 360 Fellows is not a year off. In fact, our research demonstrates that the average Impact alum finishes college BEFORE their peers who go straight on to college. Through Impact 360 Fellows, students are equipped to stand confidently in their faith through worldview and apologetics training, developed and practice leadership, and know how to build biblical community on their college campus and beyond.